After this, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples were together. “I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter said to them. “We’re coming with you,” they told him. They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When daybreak came, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not know it was Jesus. “Friends,” Jesus called to them, “you don’t have any fish, do you?” “No,” they answered. “Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” he told them, “and you’ll find some.” So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish. The disciple, the one Jesus loved, said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (21:1-7a CSB)
Sometime after Thomas’ confession of faith, we have this post-resurrection appearance that is recorded only by the apostle John. Because they had experienced that Jesus their Lord and Teacher was risen from the dead, they now had two major items on their immediate agenda: to meet Jesus in Galilee and then to return to Jerusalem, where the Holy Spirit would be poured out on them. However, they did not know the details of either meeting. They had to wait in obedient faith for both. Waiting in faith is always difficult, even to people who have demonstrated great faith in the Lord. Plenty of examples are available from the lives of people like George Mueller and Hudson Taylor, both of whom daily depended on the Lord to meet their needs. We live in tension between confidence in the living God to supply our needs and anxiety about when or how or even if God will act for our good this time. If you are finding it difficult to wait for God’s answer to your prayers, know that you have many brothers and sisters in Christ that are in the same situation. I hope that does not sound like “misery loves company”; instead, I hope it sounds like this is a normal experience of the life of faith.
While they were in Galilee, apparently waiting to meet the Risen Messiah, Peter and some of his friends decided to go fishing. We are not told why he wanted to go fishing. Nor are we told the reason the others agreed to go with him. They are not blamed for this action. Men have things they like to do, just as women do. It is really okay to the Lord that we act like humans because he made us to be humans. There might have been any number of reasons for their choice, from the simple “they needed food to eat” to “they wanted to lend a hand to the family fishing business” (this is often overlooked by the critical) to “they wanted to relax out on the lake.” This is only to suggest three possibilities. The last is quite human, considering all the turmoil they had been through. If God gives me grace to get through this pandemic safely, I might either want to go for a hike in the nearby mountains (Mt. Joy and Mt. Misery) or go fishing myself. After a time of instability and upheaval, people need time to recover, to return to a normal routine of life, to rekindle relationships. Let us not give those early disciples a hard time, when the Holy Spirit does not in the written word.
When Peter and the others went fishing, I am sure they expected a successful night catching fish. But even the best fisherman does not always catch fish. I have never been a skilled fisherman, although my dad’s nickname was “Fishhook”. How he loved to fresh water fish! Anytime anyone would go with him, he was ready! (Ah, the memories! Excuse me while my eyes tear up for a moment.) He usually caught some fish, even if they were not keepers. My brother and I went fishing one day up in New York. We rented a boat for sixty dollars. We caught one fish. I assure you we had that fish for supper that evening. It was the most expensive fish dinner I have ever had. Anyway, the disciples, some of whom were professional fisherman, caught nothing that night.
But a man stood on the shore of the lake. He had been a carpenter by trade. From the shore he called out to the unsuccessful fisherman. Most English translations are rather formal and say something like “Friends”, as the way the man addressed them. To be more colloquial, we could translate, “Hey guys, you haven’t caught any fish, have you?” A line like this never makes any fisherman happy, but they politely answered, “No.”
The man then gave them some advice that was about to resonate in their hearts. For the same man had said similar words to them a couple years previously (cf. Luke 5:4-7). They did what he said, and immediately their nets were full of fish! Immediately, the disciple that Jesus loved (John) knew it was the Lord. What exciting news! The Lord over all creation had come to be with “his guys”!
After the world changed, Jesus kept his word. The same Lord Jesus they had known and loved for years had come to meet them in Galilee. And he meet them where they were, doing something that they loved to do, and providing for their needs and wants. Hey guys, Jesus loves his people, even after the world changed. He still loves us today.
Grace and peace,